Saturday, 25 May 2013

A New Camera in Harbour Grace

After visiting the 1946 AOA crash site in Stephenville, Newfoundland, I noticed that the pictures I took were not very good quality, especially in comparison to pictures taken by others. While I still enjoy my Olympus ToughShot, and will continue to use it, I needed something a little better for archaeology work. Some of these sites are so inaccessible that a reliable camera is needed.

My first destination for camera is always Newfoundland Camera. I always get great service, plus some of the staff are familiar with the sort of work I'm doing, so they know how rough I am with a camera. There I was recommended a Pentax WG-3 GPS. It had all the requirements I needed, such as waterproof, shock proof, and cold proof. Plus it was purple.

 I had plans in Carbonear the weekend, so why not test out my new camera somewhere aviation themed.

Harbour Grace Airfield
The first airfield in Harbour Grace was established in 1919 and used by Hawker and Grieve on their trans-Atlantic attempt as part of the Daily Mail competition. White they managed to take off from Harbour Grace, they did not make it to England. Rather, they ditched in the ocean and were picked up by a passing ship. The Daily Mail Trans-Atlantic Race was won by Alcock and Brown who left from St. John's.
This is not that airfield. This one was established and 1927 as a launching point for Fred Koehler to launch his around the world flight. During its lifetime, the airstrip was used by 20 different aviators, 11 of whom were successful in flying across the Atlantic.

Looking down the runway

Most famously, the airfield was used by Amelia Earhart in 1932. She departed Harbour Grace on 20 May 1932 on her famous solo flight across the Atlantic. The Harbour Grace museum has a wonderful exhibit about Earhart, including video and rare pictures. But I'll visit the museum again another day.

Looking back at the start of the airstrip from about the halfway point.

The first aircraft touched down on the airfield on 27 August 1927, a monoplane called The Pride of Detroit piloted by William S. Brock. The last, on 29 October 1936, was the Miss Dorothy flown by James Mollision. For a full list of the aviators who stopped at the airfield, check out the Town of Harbour Grace website.

If these building have been here for the life of the airstrip then excavations in the area could potentially reveal interesting and important parts of our aviation history.

Harbour Grace embraces its aviation history. For one, the airstrip is maintained. It is no longer the dirt strip that Earhart and others used, but the grass is maintained and, for the most part, the trees and bushes are cleared. The runway is a little difficult to find, but in the heart of Harbour Grace you can find a monument to Amelia Earhart; a statue of the aviatrix and a DC-3 named The Spirit of Harbour Grace.

While taking pictures I happened to notice that she's wearing gorgeous boots. I wonder if I can find a vintage pair of aviatrix boots.

But Harbour Grace is famous for more than just its aviation history. It also has a rich fishing history, can boast being one of the oldest communities in Newfoundland, was a favourite haunt of the pirate Peter Easton, and was once the capital of Newfoundland. It is a facinating place and well worth a visit.

What's a post about Harbour Grace without a picture of the Kyle of the Alphabet Fleet?
As for the camera, so far I am pleased. It will take me a while to get used to the functions, but having played with some of them I think it will be a great addition to my field kit. The pictures are clear and true to life (it was an overcast day), and I think by the end of it I was figuring out how to do the panoramic and wide pictures. Plus it feels very comfortable in my hand, which is nice. I have not yet looked through all of the GPS details - I only have my netbook with me and I expect that software is on the disk that came with the camera so I will have to try it on my computer that has a disk drive - but will when I get home. For now, I tracked the path walking up and down the runway and mapped in in Google Earth, which is a very neat feature and very similar to how tracking on my Garmin eTrex GPS works.

My route up and down the runway. It will also draw a line connecting the dots, so you can trace your path in intervals or a solid path, but I forgot to turn off the GPS until we were halfway down Lady Lake Road, so I turned off the path.
For a list of all of the aviators who used the Harbour Grace airstrip, as well as more about this historic town, check out the Town of Harbour Grace website.

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